Busman’s Holiday Part 1 by John Johnston


Originally posted on adaptivekarateblog:

Recently my wife Elaine and I had a short holiday in the far south of England. Being on holiday should be our opportunity to get away from our normal day-to-day lives, i.e. Karate. However, it is still an opportunity for us to look at other martial arts in a different part of the country. We made some enquiries and found that on this particular night there was a session at the local sports centre. So at the appointed time we paid the centre a visit. We arrived as the session was about to commence in the main hall. We bowed as we entered the area and asked for permission to watch which was granted. We sat ourselves down happy to just observe the session. It was at this point that the main Instructor came over to speak to us.. He introduced himself and a colleague who was also an Instructor.

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Busman’s Holiday Part 1 by John Johnston


Recently my wife Elaine and I had a short holiday in the far south of England. Being on holiday should be our opportunity to get away from our normal day-to-day lives, i.e. Karate. However, it is still an opportunity for us to look at other martial arts in a different part of the country. We made some enquiries and found that on this particular night there was a session at the local sports centre. So at the appointed time we paid the centre a visit. We arrived as the session was about to commence in the main hall. We bowed as we entered the area and asked for permission to watch which was granted. We sat ourselves down happy to just observe the session. It was at this point that the main Instructor came over to speak to us.. He introduced himself and a colleague who was also an Instructor.
John: “Hi I’m John and this is my wife Elaine”.
He replied: “Can I ask you why you wish to watch the training?”
John: “Yeah sure, we are on holiday in the area and we are interested in martial arts. We thought this would be an opportunity to have a look”
He replied: “do you train in martial arts yourself?”
John: “Yes predominantly Shotokan Karate”
He replied: “So what was it you were expecting to see as this isn’t anything like Shotokan.
John: “I wasn’t expecting anything in particular, I’m just happy to see something different.
This conversation carried on whilst his students engaged in some drills of their own. After a while he excused himself while he and his friend got themselves some hot drinks from their flasks. Drinking his coffee and still ignoring his students (all 4 of them). He came back to us and tried to explain his brand of martial arts whilst criticising and pulling apart other styles. I didn’t allow myself to get drawn into this type of talk and I think he could see that he wasn’t having an impression on me. I think he thought a change of tact was called for so he invited us onto the matt. I politely declined telling him that I only wish to observe and I’d also had a large meal and a couple of beers. His reply to that was “ oh not to worry as we are not doing a warm up or drilling up and down all night, we will just be doing some Chinese Hands” He became quite insistent, so finally I allowed myself to be persuaded and Elaine and I took to the matt. He still wasn’t paying his other students any attention whilst he and his friend proceeded to show us a drill. Then instructed us on how to perform it ourselves. We soon picked it up as it was very similar to exercises we have done many time before. At that point they both left the matt another coffee break. Yes the session was that relaxed. On their return to us I was asked what I thought of the drill. Well this to my way of thinking wasn’t the first mistake of the night. We had only been there 20 minutes and they had managed to chalk up several.
1) Don’t neglect your own students for passing strangers
2) Don’t slag off other martial arts especially to someone you know nothing about.
3) Don’t take a tea/coffee break every 5 to 10 minutes.
4) Don’t ask for someone’s opinion if you can’t take the reply.
I told them that I understood the drill but found no value in it. I don’t like flow drills and never would. The other Instructor then asked me if he could show me how it could be used. We partnered off and went through the drill. I was being very compliant so every now and then he would push me away. This was his way of showing me how useful the drill could be I actually thought that it was a totally redundant exercise.
Mistake number 5) he asked me again what I thought of it.
I told him that I wasn’t impressed at all. That I was being very compliant and as I was a lot bigger than him, just pushing me away would leave him very vulnerable and that it could never work against a non compliant attack. His reply was “ OK then you show me what you would do”
Mistake number 6) we went into the drill, he tried to speed up and I reacted. I spun him round and into a strangle hold, as I did so I took his legs away.
This guy had been telling me how much experience he’d had with other martial arts and had spent some time in the army. I naturally assumed that he wouldn’t mind being a little bit robust. However he told me I was being too strong and could I take it a bit easy. I honestly thought that I was taking it easy and I told him so. He didn’t seem to keen to carry on, so after a short conversation he broke off again for another coffee break. I looked across at Elaine and I could tell that she was pissed off. She left the matt and sat down. That left the other” Instructor” free to try to sell me some of his “Snake Oil”. This one apparently likes to demonstrate his version of dynamic arsholism on his students. So after he shows me how well he can hurt a compliant opponent I conclude that it is time to leave. I thanked them (for allowing us to watch) we just left them to carry on with their session. Elaine couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She just rushed off without a backward glance and I could tell she was very upset and in part 2 of this blog Elaine will tell her story herself. I hadn’t given them any information on my background or rank and to be honest I didn’t wish to and neither did they ask me. Apart from at one point the assistant Instructor asked me how long I had been training to which my reply was 40 odd years. Now to anyone with a modicum of common sense this should have imported some sort of message/warning but no, he just carried on regardless.
So to conclude this story from my perspective, all I will say is, I believe that before you stick your head above the parapet you should always have a sneaky peek or better still use a periscope. If you really wish to see the bigger picture you don’t need new glasses, you just want to get things in focus.
There will be a concluding part from myself (Elaine Johnston) very soon.

The integrety of your students is paramount. always treat them with respect, regard and humility and in return they will allow you the authority you need to teach them well.

The integrity of your students is paramount. always treat them with respect, regard,honesty and humility and in return they will allow you the authority you need to teach them well.

TOUGH LOVE by Elaine Johnston


It is very difficult to get good honest Karate training these days and even more difficult to get good honest Karate training that provides ongoing advancement and inspiration.
Karate isn’t just a physical endeavour, it has a deep underlying spiritual element that facilitates and underpins the physical aspect. It is a tool for developing the psyche (soul).
Without the correct mindset one will not have the inner fortitude to develop the strong physical mechanisms that give Karate its speed, power and dynamics which are the necessary requisites for the one hit kill. It is not within normal conditioning to already have these built in; these physical mechanisms have to be developed. They are paramount to ones healthy and progressive Karate development. One needs courage and bravery to develop a strong mind as real genuine Karate is not for the faint hearted.
The psychological aspect of Karate has its roots in the Zen philosophy. Zen was the religion of the Samurai Warrior class in Japan. I suppose one could say the Samurai turned death into an art form. The Samurai could strike without regret and die without fear, a necessity as a single doubt or fear could cause a lack in concentration that could prove fatal, also having to live with the thought of impending death every day needed a spiritually philosophical strategy.
We do not need to be like the Samurai today. We do not need to prepare our minds for death. What we do need however is to prepare our minds to “live”. We need to bring our consciousness out of atrophy and train our minds to fight against our own self doubts and self imposed limitations and become stronger more able individuals. Whilst it is not every student’s ambition to learn the one hit kill, it should be every student’s requirement to develop the skills that will lead onto developing a better standard of living.
easy training will not accomplish this and nether will an instructor that’s only interested in student fees because to start building strength into the character means one has to be pushed, challenged and tested and this method of training is not popular amongst the meek and the mild, although it seems these days everybody wants to wear the label of the warrior!!!
The commercialisation and profit market for Karate today has misled the majority of its practitioners into believing that what they are practicing is of a genuine nature when in fact it is not. How can it be? With the amount of martial arts schools and instructors out in the world and the amount of people that are training or have trained at some point in their lives, one would think that the majority of nations would be full of strong minded, well balanced, dignified people who are quietly assertive, follow impeccable codes of moral conduct, never give up in the face of adversity and who never compromise their high standards and integrity for the benefit of others, but are willing to pass on and teach others how to attain these standards for themselves (the way of a true Karate-Ka). Imagine a world full of people with these high codes of conduct, wouldn’t that be wonderful? And wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place to live in? The fact that this is not so is evidence that it is all work in progress.
It is a day and age whereby Karate and Martial Arts in general has absorbed itself into society creating a wide and diverse spectrum of extremes across the board. The level, ability and knowledge of instructors ranges from below average to exceptional and yes it seems that everybody is “kung -fu fighting”. I was once told by a very inspiring colleague “when the student is ready the Master will come”. If the spectrum and range of Instructors is so extreme in both directions then maybe that is because there is demand for them in these extremes. After all not everyone will have the mental capacity or the fortitude to be trained on a regular basis by a top Instructor because not everyone has that mentality or that certain type of aggression that enables a student to flourish in a martial environment. I like to use physics when I translate my Karate to my ideas and theories. One of the basic laws in physics is “like attracts like” so there is definitely an Instructor out there for every level of human capability from the below average to the exceptional. This inspires a very positive outlook if one is able to view the situation from a slightly different perspective. If almost all people are training in Karate or other Martial Art, those that have been well trained will know that within the training is “The Code” the code that teaches us about ourselves and how to behave correctly. All students/ people have got to start somewhere, even if it is on the bottom rung of the ladder. It is really up to each and every individual student to learn how to step up to the mark and progress forward and upwards and when the student is ready the master will come.
Training the psyche (soul) can face one with emotionally painful difficulties. Self doubt and self imposed limitations are inherent in all humans at varying degrees, it is these traits that actually hinder and restrain natural creativity. It is natural inner creativity that gives us our individuality and unique expression. The human disposition is to avoid any kind of pain physical or psychological, so it is very necessary to have a trusted teacher who is capable of pushing a student to the limits. It cannot be stressed enough how important these lesson’s are and how beneficial they are to an individual in the long term. A genuine and knowledgeable Karate Instructor knows this because he himself has had to learn them from his teacher, but many students unfortunately are too shy to be able to make it through to the beneficial stages, which can only materialise inside the mind of the student after they have faced and conquered many of their inner fears, self imposed limitations and doubts, giving them a sense of real well being, strength of character and inner calm. This can be very difficult to attain, though it should be every students ultimate goal to work towards attaining “Self Enlightenment” after all what are we all here for if it isn’t to ultimately realise our full potential and true nature. It is much easier to be tempted into going down the road to the brightly coloured and well promoted local McDojo or go to an unethical Instructor whose ego has not been humbled. Such Instructors are not able to push their students because they themselves haven’t developed the right kind of character to be able to do this correctly. Pushing a student to test the boundaries of their emotional limits can only really be done if the student has complete and utter trust in his/her Instructor. This kind of trust cannot really be achieved from an Instructor whose motives are distorted and/or ill guided because on a subconscious level this underlying negative influence impedes the students trust and their growth. How can the above two types of Instructor possibly provide the correct type of training coming at it from such distorted perspectives. A lesser trained and less experienced Instructor can still be of a great benefit so by all means go somewhere where the training is easier if that suits but make sure that the Instructor has your interest at heart and not his own. A good Instructor is one who has integrity not necessarily one who has superior knowledge.
The most knowledgeable Instructors are undoubtedly the most challenging to train under because their knowledge involves so much dynamic content in each individual technique and so many complex mechanisms for a student to get their head and body around. A good and seasoned Sensei will gradually add the content and complexity into the students Karate so as not to over complicate things. It should be the student’s goal to be able to learn how to hold thought and technique in all its complexity without having any autonomous body parts!! I call this “autonomous karate tourettes” whereby you are practicing a technique, Kata or combination and a stray body part is off doing something completely on its own accord and you have no knowledge of its wild adventure until your instructor pulls you up on it which usually comes as a surprise!!. Students should have the feeling of holding all states of awareness together in a controlled but fluid manner through each transition of movement, giving the techniques mindfulness, intention and accuracy. This brings Karate to life and trains the body and the soul.
There has to be love in your art. Love is infinitely detailed and extraordinarily complex in its nature. A student who is putting love into his/her art is able to connect to it on a much deeper level and on those levels learn how to control and hold a complex myriad of thought processes and dynamic physical mechanisms together thus being able to translate this into Karate technique developing power, beauty and expression. Love in the art will help a student through those tough times when it’s hard to carry on. Thoughtful Karate training builds spirit because it is building the psyche (another word for Soul) this is the kind of spirit training that I prefer because building a greater spirit teaches me how to act without conscience and this gives me my peace of mind. Some Instructors perceive hard training as a physical endeavour requiring lots of stamina and body strength which can also be said to build spirit, although I think that this type of training is building a different sense of spirit. Lots of stamina building drills are OK and necessary for sport Karate but if it’s the one hit kill that is being trained for, which I believe to be the fundamental aspect of Shotokan Karate, then it is paramount to have the mindset and the physical power inbuilt, which I believe is attained from training the psyche. My Instructor once told me that conflict was 90% mental and 10% physical so in training the psyche I also have my conflict resolution. Maybe this method of training the psyche suits me because I’m a woman in a male dominated arena and this is how I’ve fashioned my art to be of most benefit to me.

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Man Maketh Man by John Johnston


Following a training session a short time ago, myself and some of the senior students were chatting about my experiences of training with other Instructors. Over the years I have been lucky and privileged to have been taught by and trained with some of the best. I have a personal policy of attending a training session or seminar with s different Instructor at least once a month. I told them that I would ensure that they had the information of any of the different courses that were coming up. Two of the students had come to me from different clubs and associations. They both tentatively asked whether I minded them attending sessions with other Instructors because with their old clubs this was unheard of and strictly not allowed. I found it strange whilst looking at these two big strapping lads that these were grown men with responsible jobs. My answer to them was that as individuals they had free choice and that they have an obligation to themselves to get the best out of their Karate and that would come from various sources. I like to think that I am a responsible person and Instructor and in being so I have a duty to steer my students in a direction where they have a varied progressive and wholesome training experience. I like them to feel free to actively seek out the best Instruction and to be able to explore whatever dimension of Martial Arts they wish to pursue.
Anybody who thinks themselves as the seed of all knowledge knows nothing.
To keep students trapped, blinkered and isolated for reasons of ego, insecurity and/ or personal financial gain is not only ethically and morally wrong, it is dishonest and irresponsible. It breaks a trust and a code of honour that should be showed towards a student that has come to you and placed their wellbeing and personal development in your hands. As my Grandmother used to say “if you can’t do anybody any good then don’t do them any harm”

Elaine

Survival Of The Fittest Or Fit For Survival by John Johnston


Recently a friend and colleague Steve Lowe posted on face book how his Karate training had saved his life. He had slipped on a roof he was working on. He was in danger of falling head first through a skylight with a 30ft onto concrete below. He managed to twist mid fall and land on his back. In doing so he was able to cushion his fall and brace himself on top of the skylight. He was sore and bruised but very much alive.
I know from experience that it’s at times like this that through your training your survival instincts will kick in and that in most cases you will manage to take appropriate action. When I think back and analyse actions I have taken during conflict situations, I realise how lucky I was to come out of it with a favourable result but it’s not conflict that I want to talk about today.
I know many of us have stories from everyday situations where martial arts training have saved us from serious injury or even death. There have been quite a few occasions in my life where I can look back and know that my training has worked for me. I would like to relate to you about one of these occasions.
I used to be a keen cyclist. I enjoyed going on long cycling and camping holidays. A former girlfriend and I had been touring in Spain and had just crossed the Pyrenees into France. We had stopped over night in a campsite just the other side of Narbonne. We were a day or so ahead of our schedule so we decided to have a rest day. While my girlfriend did some washing, I decided to prepare some breakfast. We had two small camping gas stoves. I was using one for boiling some water, the other one needed the gas canister changing. This was where things started to go pear shaped. Normally there would not have been a problem switching a gas canister refill but as I was doing it the housing collapsed and the bayonet pierced the refill. Pressurised liquid gas started spraying everywhere, in the same instant I realised there was a naked flame on the other stove. I thought about that moment many times and have analysed my actions. I know that without my training and experiences I would have come off with worse injuries than I did, also others could have been in danger of being injured. My reaction and thought processes where so fast. I hurled the punctured refill one way knowing that there was nobody in that direction and at the same time I executed a backward somersault which was something I have never practised or done in my life and this was achieved from a kneeling position. Fortunately my girlfriend was at the back of the tent hanging washing on a makeshift washing line. She described to me later how she looked round as she heard me shout to see me flying backwards out of ball of flames and to land on my feet as the refill exploded about 12 feet away. The tent was completely disintegrated. As the people in the vicinity came to see what all the commotion was about. There was a lot of people speaking in French and acting panicky and confused. Now I do not say this to big myself up but throughout I remained calm and in control which considering the state I was in wasn’t easy. I was actually smouldering and my skin was beginning to blister. As it was a hot morning I was only wearing shorts and sandals. I had the sense to find the cold water tap and start to douse myself down. I then went to the campsite reception and with my broken French I managed to get them to understand that I needed medical attention. Eventually they phoned for an ambulance. A short time later paramedics arrived to find me showering myself with cold water from a hose that I had found at the back of the reception. They took one look at me and requested an air ambulance. After administering first aid they took me to a nearby landing strip where I was flown to a burns unit in Montpellier. I was treated for 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 35% of my body. The hospital experiences would be a story in itself so we come back to the point of this blog which is to illustrate just how valuable your training is to you. It isn’t only just for self defence when faced with the possibility of being physically attacked but for yourself protection and yourself development in that it enhances life skills and the thought processes. It also gives you pain tolerance and emotional control.
It is said that you need to train the way that you wish to fight. I would also add that you should train the way that you wish to live, with honesty, courtesy and a strong spirit.

THE DEMO TO END ALL DEMO’S. By John Johnston


A long, long time ago when there was orks and goblins still roaming the world, Richard Jackson Sensei asked the senior members of his club if they would like to help him put on a demo at the local school fete. Great we thought a chance to do some recruiting but better still, to be able to show off! So over the next few weeks we put together a bit of a spectacle. You older readers will understand the sort of thing that I am talking about. There was tamishiwari that is breaking techniques. There was also knife and sword defence. Kata’s performed in Hakama’s. My main contribution to the event was throwing techniques but mainly being thrown. My friend and partner was an old style semi-professional wrestler. All in all I think we put on a fairly good show. There was lots of ooohs and aaahs from the crowd with enthusiastic applause and cheering. All the kids were running around asking for our autographs and plenty of enquiries about joining up. So as things began to settle down, we thought it was time to get changed and depart. As a group we were making our way back to the gym changing rooms.
Mick Jackson, Ricks brother was following on behind. He hadn’t taken part in the Demo as he was on crutches. He had broken his leg about 6 weeks previously. It had been quite a severe injury that had occurred during a National Squad training session at the Long Ford Dojo in Coventry. It happened during a clash with Sensei Bob Rhodes.
As we were just about to go into the changing rooms, one of the lads called me back saying he thinks Mick has got some trouble and sure enough I can see that Mick is surrounded by 5 drunks. They were taunting him and trying to make fun of him. They must have thought he was an easy and vulnerable target, however they were wrong. Even though he has been on crutches Mick adapted his training and carried on throughout his injury. You have never seen anybody hop and punch oi-tsuki the way Mick could.
My friend Frank and I are running back towards Mick and the drunks. As we approach one of the lads explodes backwards and lands flat on his back and doesn’t move (he’s out cold). The other drunks are momentarily shocked; they’re not sure what to do. I think that they were so surprised that somebody on crutches was able to knock one of their friends out; it was too much for their confused little minds to handle. It was at this point that Frank and I arrived on the scene. Oh I forgot to tell you about Frank. He is a young lad of about 18 and a brick layers apprentice. He is 6 ft 2in and all testosterone. He was extremely strong and supple. His party trick was to stand next to a doorway, lift his foot up and place it on top of the door frame as if kicking yoko geri. Frank later immigrated to Australia where he went on to be south Australia’s Kata and Kumite champion.
One of the drunks turns as frank is running up. Without missing a step Frank chins him and down he goes.
Mick’s on one crutch hopping and hoping one of the others will come near enough so that he can test his one legged oi-tsuki again. I grab one of the lads and swing him round into his mate, they both stumble over backwards. As I turn I am just in time to see a wild punch coming my way. I manage to duck under it and I am now in a position to be able to grab the dickhead in a strangle hold from the rear. I have got the strangle hold locked on and he is pretty subdued. It’s at this point that Frank looms up in front of us after having chased the other 2 lads off. Frank has yet to learn about restraint. He front kicks the lad I am holding in the lower abdomen. Frank’s kicks are really powerful. It knocks us both backwards and sits us both on our backsides. Personally I think it was overkill but you can’t have much sympathy for a bully. These lads were quite prepared to pick on somebody in a vulnerable position, outnumbering him 5 to 1.
The aftermath of the whole affair was, 1 lad was taken to hospital via an ambulance, and 2 of them were arrested when the Police arrived. They spent the afternoon and the night in the cells. The Police told us to make ourselves scarce which we did. We were never asked to do a demonstration again in that area. Like with all demonstrations you always have sceptics; however the later demonstration proved how well Karate works in reality.

Some actual photo's of the demonstration

Some actual photo’s of me in the demonstration

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SCOTCH MARY by John Johnston


Yet another tale of daring do from yesteryear

Scotch Mary was a notorious alcoholic. She was barred from almost everywhere in Coventry, shops, pubs, clubs (the Police Station). Scotch Mary was the worst bad news ever. If she was on your premises you had trouble with a capital T. She has been in and out of prison countless times. She was mean, abusive, vicious and vindictive. She was completely out of control.

It was one of those nights where there just seemed to be one incident after another. I think that it had something to do with the moon or perhaps there was something in the water.
I always believed that I ran a really tight door but that is when you find out that shit happens. I was on my way back to the door after sorting out an incident at one of the bars. A punter came to tell me the worst bad news ever – Scotch Mary’s in the club and he didn’t mean she was pregnant. It’s at moments like these that you go through the whole gambit of emotion, panic, hate, fear, revulsion, love (yes love) you’d  love to be any place but here. As I was given the worst bad news ever I had a couple of my guys with me. I send one back to the door so as to inform them that I am not best pleased, let them sweat it out a little bit, because whoever let her in will have some explaining to do. I take the other lad with me as I go and look for Mary. It’s not long before there is a disturbance in the vicinity of the ladies toilets. As we arrive girls are running out in a panic. As we cautiously enter the corridor leading to the toilets, there is a lot of banging and abusive language in a Glaswegian accent. Yes it’s Mary. She is apparently trying to kick in the doors to the cubicles. As I peep around the door I can see that she has just thrown a glass over the top of the door into a cubicle. Fortunately it smashes on the wall and not on the person who was in there. I stepped cautiously into the room. It feels like that moment in the film when Medusa turns her gaze upon some poor Greek Soldier turning him to stone. Mary has just thrown her weapon of choice which is usually a glass or bottle but she has been known to carry a knife. In those few moments when I was frozen it allowed me to assess whether she was carrying or not. As Mary transfers her attention from the cubicles to me it is at this point that she lunges at me. I step in and deliver a back hand slap to the side of her head, it sends her flying backwards. She hits the wall and slumps down in the corner. I have hit her with a really good shot (yes I have hit a woman) Mary however was nothing like any woman you would ever know. She was a Banshee. She would have attacked me full on with tooth and claw. I get a couple of the lads to get rid of Mary whilst she is still quiet and subdued. They decide that it is best to put her out of the back emergency exit out of the way of normal human beings. I remain I the toilets so as to reassure the girls cowering in the cubicles that everything is OK and it is safe to come out. A couple of the girls come out and promptly leave, however there is another girl locked in a cubicle, she is totally traumatised and terrified. I managed to get her to calm down enough to leave the cubicle and I escort her to the safety of the manager’s office. This is when I find out exactly what has happened. Apparently Mary had approached this young lady at the bar. She had tried to get her to buy her a drink. This was a favoured tactic of Mary’s as most people would just buy her a drink just to be rid of her. This poor lass didn’t know Mary or her reputation and had refused. Mary became abusive and aggressive towards her. It was at this point that  a young lad had tried to intervene. Mary just snatched a glass from the bar and smashed it into the poor fellows face. The young girl had bolted for the toilets with Mary in pursuit, leaving the poor innocent lad scarred for life. The glass has sliced a large flap of flesh from his cheek. I can’t remember how many stitches that he needed but it was a lot.
as soon as I got the whole story I sent some of the lads back out to try and find Mary so as to be able to hand her over to the Police. Mary was long gone. The whole incident was reported to the Police and Mary was picked up somewhere in the early hours of the morning. Due process took its course and Mary ended up in prison. I’ve not seen Mary from that day to this which is fortunate for both of us. She is almost certainly dead by now and I hope that her passing was anything but peaceful. I’m a great believer in Karma. I can only hope that in Mary’s case what went around came around.